This Year IS NOT Last Year

From having a new head coach, another new system to learn, injuries piling up on the blueline and a tough schedule down the stretch, the comparisons to last year have NOT stopped. In case you missed it, THIS YEAR IS NOT LAST YEAR. Much like last season there are a lot of expectations for THIS team. Last season started with a lot of potential but somewhere around a mid January hallway tirade everything changed.

LAST SEASON: The Canucks were under the leadership of head coach John Tortorella and GM/President Mike Gillis.

THIS SEASON: The Canucks are under the leadership of rookie head coach Willie Desjardins, newly minted GM Jim Benning and President Trevor Linden.

LAST SEASON: After 56 games played the Canucks had amassed 63 points with a 27-20-9 record. They did NOT register their 30th win of the season until March 12th, and their 32nd did not come until March 19th.

THIS SEASON: After  56 games played the Canucks have amassed 67 points with a 32-21-3 record. They registered their 30th win of the season on February 11th, and their 32nd on February 16th.

LAST SEASON: The Sedins under Tortorella were not as predictable as everyone has come to expect over the years and BOTH missed extended periods due to injuries. Henrik amassed 50 points (11 goals, 39 assists) in 70 games played. Daniel amassed just 47 points (16 goals, 31 assists) in 73 games played. Questions were raised if they would be able to find their way back to playing the way they did before or if their best days were behind them.

THIS SEASON: The Sedins under Desjardins have shown us that they are not done yet making many mind dazzling SEDINERY plays whether playing with Radim Vrbata or yes that ever familiar winger, Alex Burrows. Through 56 games, they have nearly matched their points totals from last year; Henrik has amassed 48 points (10 goals, 38 assists) points and counting while Daniel has amassed 47 points (13 goals, 34 assists). Yes they are not quite on a point-per-game pace BUT they are beginning to resemble their steady reliable play that Canucks fans have been lucky enough to watch develop over the last 15 years.

LAST SEASON: The injury bug came in waves for Alex Burrows and limited his playing to just 49 games and 15 points(5 goals, 10 assists). The ever tenacious player was unable to gain ANY sort of rhythm between injuries and Torts never understanding his role.

THIS SEASON: Alex Burrows told Desjardins before the season even began that as long he was able to play, he did not care which line he was used on but that he would play wherever called upon. Burrows has been successful in each situation that Desjardins has used him from the first line to the fourth line, to the penalty kill to the power-play. Through 51 games Burrows has amassed 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists). Burrows is having fun again playing the game he loves while consistently contributing, a trend that he will look to continue down the stretch as the Canucks make a playoff push.

LAST SEASON: Not ONE player registered a hat trick.

THIS SEASON: Two players have registered a hat trick through 56 games. Jannik Hansen scored his first career NHL hat trick on November 23, 2014 versus the Chicago Blackhawks. Shawn Matthias scored his first career NHL hat trick on February 13, 2015 versus the Boston Bruins. Both hat tricks were scored in front of the home crowd making hats rain down on the ice of Rogers Arena.

LAST SEASON: The goalie drama of will they or won’t they trade Roberto Luongo came to an end. Luongo was eventually traded back to Florida leaving the Canucks with no veteran presence in net. Eddie Lack was forced to take on the veteran load the rest of the way. It was hardly an ideal situation but in typical Eddie Lack fashion, he was the epitome of professional all the way to the end.

THIS SEASON: Ryan Miller was brought it in as veteran presence and surprised more than a few people with his solid play in net while registering 6 shutouts through 42 starts (26-15-1). Millsy has brought in some much needed stability for the Canucks on the back end and been a pillar for Eddie Lack as they share the load this season. Lack and Miller have formed a great repertoire so far this season and hopefully they can continue to build on that down the stretch.

And yes it is true that there are  a few echoes that sound nearly identical from last season:

LAST SEASON: The injury bug followed that hallway tirade took endless casualties until the final game of the season.

THIS SEASON: The injury bug has come to the blueline once more this year, but unlike LAST season, the team IS finding ways to play as a TEAM despite the injuries. The multiple injuries to the defensive core has forced the Canucks to rely upon younger players and prospects stepping up to fill in. (Ronalds Kenins anyone?!)

#17 once again LEADS the team in goals scored.                                                       LAST SEASON: Ryan Kesler (25 goals in 77 games played).                                    THIS SEASON: Radim Vrbata (21 goals and counting in 53 games played).

LAST SEASON: Henrik Sedin played his 1000th game (March 12, 2014).                THIS SEASON: Daniel Sedin played his 1000th game (November 23, 2014).

And yes much like last year, there are many questions still remaining:

Will the Canucks find a second gear in the final 26 games? Will the Canucks have more than one 20+ goal scorer by season’s end? Will the Canucks stand pat at the trade deadline or will they be deal makers to find that last puzzle piece to help them down the stretch? Will the Canucks make the playoffs?

No, THIS year is NOT LAST year but the questions will continue to be debated as the season winds down but until all is said and done, we will not have a definitive answer. There is still a lot of hockey left to be played between now and April, but how the Canucks play between now and then is up to them. Will they make the playoffs? They certainly have the potential to do so but it won’t be an easy task as the Western Conference playoff race is a tight one and will probably go down to the wire.

The Canucks have 26 games left to prove just how far they have come from last year beginning with their 5-game Eastern Conference road trip (New York, New Jersey, Long Island, Boston and Buffalo) that will be a great challenge as they look to pick some important points.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E. L.

 

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A Prelude to the 2014-2015 Season

IMG_0071The 2014 off-season felt even longer than usual with having missed the playoffs BUT a new season is just around the corner! The Young Stars Tournament in Penticton, BC will give the fans an up close view of the team’s prospects prior to the start of training camp when they will join the veteran players to prepare for the pre-season.

This year the team will face some BIG questions moving forward with the many changes that have happened since their summer began…

Will Trevor Linden handle the pressure of transitioning from former player to being an NHL executive?

IMG_0686April 9, 2014 will go down in Vancouver Canucks history as the day Captain Canuck came home and was crowned Mr. President! Fans were ecstatic to learn Trevor Linden was returning to the franchise to help bring back the excitement to the game. Of course, with his new work also comes great expectations and every decision he makes will be forever debated. He has had his work cut out for him since that first day on the job as he aims to help the team find their way back to the WIN column. His work began as soon as he suited up for day one, and his work will continue as long as he remains with the team.

First order of duty he had to find a GM and the rumors that swirled about Jim Benning being hired became FACT when Linden made the official announcement. Benning and Linden (Team Lindenning, if you will) went into the draft saying they meant business and they wasted no time in making ripples in the water. It’s no secret that Ryan Kesler wanted out and wanted out, NOW…and had only TWO destinations in mind, limiting the possibilities of what the team could get in return. By the end of the draft, Kesler was no longer a Vancouver Canuck, the team had 2 first round picks, and acquired many new players both through the draft and various trades.

The work in the off-season was far from done, the team still needed a coach.

Will the Canucks adjust to yet another NEW coach?

DesjardinsThe outspoken Torts era did not last after a disastrous 2013-2014 season where nearly everything went wrong and by season’s end the team said “Adios, Torts”. The hiring of a new coach was not something that Trevor Linden and Jim Benning took lightly and they interviewed many candidates before hiring Willie Desjardins. Desjardins is coming off a championship season with the AHL’s Texas Stars. Having coached in the WHL and AHL, this is Desjardins first NHL head coaching position(he previously served as an associate coach with Dallas). Perhaps, Desjardins seems like an outside the box choice because of his limited NHL experience but perhaps that is exactly what the team needs…to start thinking outside the box.

Desjardins is a players coach that has succeeded at every level that he’s coached at and has more than earned his chance at the NHL level. From day one he has been putting the time in with meeting the veterans, newly acquired players AND meeting the prospects….yes the prospects because every player within the franchise/system needs to and will be on the same page moving forward. Does that sound refreshing from last year’s approach of which the coaching staff was hardly ever, if at all with the prospects in any capacity.

Last year’s new system was absolutely foreign to nearly the entire roster and it showed on the ice, each and every game. This year Desjardins will be coming in with his own system but one that will encompass helping the Canucks to rediscover their previous successful areas and strengthening the areas that need the team needs to be stronger. It may seem like that is too much to many on the outside but already this new coaching staff seems to be putting in the work with all of the players within the organization from top to bottom. Will that be a challenge? Yes, but the most difficult challenges can be the ones that are the most rewarding.

Ryan Kesler is long gone in So-Cal. How will the Canucks fill the Kesler void and will anyone take his place?

KESLERAdios Kes! The simple truth is that NO, no one will replace Ryan Kesler, but with his vacancy in the line up there is ample opportunity for MANY to step up. As much as the fans loved Kesler’s tenacity on the ice as one of league’s top two-way players, the fans HATED the way he exited, burning bridges on his way out the door. Kesler may not have left the team or this city on the best of terms, but that does not take away from his talent on the ice and the many good memories that he gave this city.

No one will replace him and nor should they, each player should have their own story. Kesler has moved on, and that opens a gap in the Canucks offensive line up creating a HUGE opportunity for more than one player to step up and play a bigger role. Will that player be Nick Bonino who was acquired in the Kesler trade or a ready to play Zack Kassian or will an unpredictable candidate pop up during training camp? Unfair comparisons will be made all year long between Kesler and whoever takes his place but only time will tell us the answer and perhaps surprise everyone in the process.

Will the Sedins rebound? Will everyone else?

SedinTwins2Last year, was a terrible season by both the Sedins. Last year they were told to change their playing style, played big PK minutes, struggled on the power-play, Henrik (the iron man who had not missed a game in 10 years!) missed 12 games AND the Olympics but probably should have missed more due to injuries, and Daniel missed 9 games due to injuries. The twins combined for 21 games missed due to injuries and that does not include the scare in the final game of the season that saw Daniel taken off the ice on a stretcher. Luckily, for Daniel and the Canucks, he proved to be okay with little or no after effects.

Now some may say that the Sedins are fading and that we can only expect the point totals to continue decreasing over the next four years. I disagree. Yes, it is true that twins did not produce last season as we’ve grown accustomed to year after year; and yes they struggled all year long but you cannot expect to change HOW they play as Torts did and expect them to yield the same offensive results. Changing how they played, changed their on-ice results and disappointed many fans expectations. They are a huge part of the team’s offense and they will be called upon to be a big part of that this year. If the Sedins are given the opportunity to return to their roots and focusing on offense along with being productive on the power-play, then I have NO doubts that they can find their way back to producing a point-per-game pace.

Let’s be completely frank, nearly every player on the roster had a terrible season under the new Torts system aside from maybe Chris Tanev. There were moments when the team shined (vs. Boston in December) but those were quickly overshadowed by the continuous downward spiral that began in January after the Torts hallway tirade. Does that mean that they will never find their way again? No. Injuries, suspensions and losing streaks have a way of getting in a player’s head and changing the way they carry themselves on the ice. – THAT happened to a more than a few of the roster players last year and at times, it was difficult to watch. The thing about players who have an off year, is, that they train harder in the off-season and they come back hungrier to prove themselves the next year. The team has had a long off-season to prepare for the 82-game battle and they all are determined to BE better and PLAY better than what they did last season. It’s a NEW year with a blank slate and everyone has an opportunity to start over. Will there be players that struggle? Probably, but there will also be players who will surprise everyone.

Will Ryan Miller rediscover his Vezina captivating ways?

MILLER3Ryan Miller is an impeccable athlete and while the last few seasons have been far from perfect for him, he still has a lot that he wants to accomplish. There are those who say they think he will do well, those who think he will falter and those who hope to see yet another goalie controversy. As for me, I simply wish him the best, hoping that he will further mentor Eddie Lack while together they will stabilize the back end. It would be incredibly refreshing to see THIS city and the FANS simply support BOTH their goalies from the START, don’t you think?

I have a feeling that Ryan Miller will be winning over a lot of fans this year. He did enjoy playing in Vancouver during the Olympics except for maybe that epic OT goal from Sidney Crosby, but this time he will have something he didn’t back then, the HOME crowd will be on his side!

Will the team be playoff bound in April?

I know that looking at this team on paper, that it will be no easy task to get into the playoffs, but I also know that anything can happen during an 82-game season. If getting to the playoffs was easy, then every team would be there every year and it would not be an epic battle for the Stanley Cup. I think that, yes, this team very well could be playoff bound in April, surprising a lot of people and I understand why there are many who say no, that it is a pipe dream.

Can things really be as bad as they were in the 2013-2014 season?

Let’s be honest, can things really be as bad as they were last year? Everything that could go wrong, DID, and watching the team some nights was like a nightmare. Remember the Islanders game (yes that 7-goal third period)? Henrik getting injured, not once but twice…did ANYONE see that one coming?

I cannot promise that things will be perfect or that things will not fall off the rails once again this year. All I can say is: that there will be ups, there will be downs, there will incredible moments that we never saw coming and shocking moments that will take our breath away, there will be moments that break your heart, and there will be moments that make you stand still. No matter which of these moments that there are more or less of on the 82-game journey that makes up the regular season, I would not trade one of them away. Each season is a unique experience and a forever part of a team’s forever changing history.

I look forward to watching history unfold this season, whatever it may be when the Vancouver Canucks return to the ice on October 8, 2014.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.

Welcome Desjardins!

After weeks of speculation, it is finally OFFICIALLY, official as the Vancouver Canucks announced Willie Desjardins as the 18th head coach in franchise history.

HERE’S WILLIE DESJARDINS:

Where did Willie come from before joining the Vancouver Canucks?

Desjardins spent 8 seasons coaching in the WHL from 2002-2010 as head coach of the Medicine Hat Tigers. He led them to the playoffs in every season he coached them, including all the way to two WHL Championship titles in 2003-2004 and 2006-2007. Following his success in the WHL, he was brought in as an associate coach with the Dallas Stars for two years (2010-2012). Desjardins has spent his last two years coaching the Texas Stars in the AHL which concluded with his tenure with the team winning the AHL championship Calder Cup.

Six days after winning the 2014 AHL Championship, Desjardins was named as the newest Vancouver Canucks head coach. Welcome to Canucks nation, Willie!

How does Desjardins feel about being called up to the big leagues?

“It’s great for me and my family. I just like coaching. It’s a great opportunity. You always want to coach at the best level. The NHL is the best level.”

How does he feel about coaching in Vancouver and his current team?

“This is a great city. It’s a great organization. I’m lucky to be part of this. I didn’t take this job without doing my research. I like this team and I like the roster. I know the skill level here.”

On getting to his players: “You have to respect the players. It’s about how we get there and that’s working together.” –>Sounds like a refreshing concept does it not?

As for the core, he still believes they can find their way back to being contenders again. “We have so many great leaders on this team…they’ve won in the past, they’ll win again”

Desjardins knows that it will take more than the right words to prove to all the critics that both he and the team can exceed expectations: “We can say we’re going to be great but it doesn’t matter what we say, it’s what we do.”

Willie Desjardins has his work cut out for in his first ever NHL head coaching post BUT he is primed and ready for the challenge. Desjardins has paid his dues and earned his turn at the helm of an NHL team. He brings with him one very important ingredient that Torts never had, an ability to connect with his peers and his players in a manner that will motivate them instead of causing them to second guess each step forward. That may sound small BUT when a coach believes in his players it goes a long way in how his players will play every night…take away that belief and it can cause his players to question every play they make on the ice losing their confidence.

One last Canucks note: On the Kesler watch, Linden had THESE words to say: “We’re working with Ryan. Ryan is a tremendous player. He’s got the assets we want to have on this team.” Does that mean he will remain a Canuck by season’s start or be traded by the draft? The truth is, that only time will tell on that front no matter how many predictions that the fans and media will insist upon making to keep the rumour mill running wild.

On the NHL front…did you see that the 2014-2015 NHL schedule has officially been released? If you want to take a closer look at the Canucks schedule in particular, simply check out the Canucks 2014-2015 Schedule & Results page at the top of the blog.

As always, until next time, nuck said.

Sarah E.L.